One decision of Canon frustrated me so much that I stopped working on CanonNews, that was when it finally came out that Canon was aggressively preventing third-party lens manufacturers from developing the RF mount. I honestly didn’t want anything to do with Canon after that, until Craig talked me into writing for all you fine people again.
This opinion was hinted at and briefly discussed the last time I did an opinion, but with new rumors circulating over Canon “opening” the mount, I decided to have at it again.
Part of me wonders to this day was, what was it that Canon was really going after the vendors for because this is basically what they were doing;
Use the EF protocols for autofocus and emulate an existing EF lens. In case you didn’t know Canon RF camera bodies can seamlessly switch between the EF protocol and the RF protocol.
Use the RF mechanical mount
Use the RF electronic interconnects that are attached to the lens that provide the communication between the lens body and the camera body.
The first item is what every single third-party company has been doing on the EF mount for the last 30 years. So it’s not as if Canon can start going after them, and nor could they go after the new guys making lenses with the EF protocol.
The second item is the mechanical RF mount design and it is patented by Canon, but they are obviously not going after the thousands of vendors that are using the mechanical mount. I also really doubt that Canon has them all licensed as well. Every vendor that makes anything from a dumb adapter to a teleconverter uses a manufactured copy of the RF mount. Also, all the manual lenses in existence would tend to indicate that they really don’t care about the physical RF mount being copied for third-party lenses. So this seems to be not to be not a problem either.
For the third Canon, as well, has allowed extension tubes and extenders to be developed and sold using the RF mount, so again, it’s obvious that even the physical electronic connections between the RF camera and lens or adapter aren’t something that Canon considers infringement.
So what is it? Because there is nothing different than Samyang making an EF lens and supplying an RF adapter, it is them making an RF lens that still utilizes the EF protocol. I have to stress this. If the third-party vendors are using the EF protocol, there really is nothing different than an EF lens.
I will readily admit that I’m no patent lawyer, but the entire case sounds like these third-party companies simply wanted to avoid litigation with Canon, knowing that Canon loves taking little guys to court over patent infringement. It could simply be not worth the fight and easier just to shut down manufacturing RF lenses.
All this is what really annoyed the living daylights out of me about this and still does.
Another nagging issue that I have going forward is which lenses are officially sanctioned by Canon and which lenses are not. Are we left in the dark and not knowing which third-party lens may get the rug pulled out from underneath it (We hear you Samyang)? Will there be any sort of branding? This could lead to a ton of issues, as lenses that are not licensed could be canceled at any time, depending on Canon’s lawyers.
I talked to Craig about this, and he raised some good points on this topic. So grudgingly I’ll get off my soapbox for a bit here. Here are some arguments that Canon might have some very valid reasons to do this with the RF mount.
We don’t know what the costs were to Canon to support the EF mount third-party lenses. There had to be many support calls to Canon when a lens would suddenly stop working after a firmware update, or if a lens experienced odd incompatibilities with various cameras. Craig said people would contact him for information on this and I think I even had one or two emails asking for help now that I think about it as well. You can’t tell me that people were contacting us, and not flooding Canon’s support with questions. Canon could be basing this all on their experience with the EF mount and deciding that they don’t need this while they are fledging out the mount and significantly new technology at the same time.
There is also the loss of reputation if a future change to a Canon RF camera causes lenses to stop working, or even worse, partly work correctly. We have seen this on even Canon lenses where IBIS would act funky with Canon lens or another and required the lens to have firmware updates. Elements such as IBIS are extremely complex. I have lost count of how many patents Canon has on IBIS and the careful control over IBIS functionality while maintaining image quality in all scenarios. It could be that Canon wants to license the mount to specific lenses because they want to certify that the lenses will function correctly across the wide variety of RF camera bodies and RF feature sets.
There are also aspects such as DLO which is heavily controlled by Canon and whatever mystical level 90 software wizards they have working on DLO and that most likely cannot be reverse-engineered correctly.
So I could be an old man yelling at the clouds over this, there could be a ton of very valid reasons why Canon was hesitant against having unlicensed third-party lenses with the RF mount. The problem is – we haven’t heard Canon suggest that any of them are the actual reasons.
To be fair to Canon; the RF mount isn’t a closed mount. Vendors can be approved to license and use the mount and I would assume the RF protocols with select lenses. That by definition means it’s not a closed mount. But Canon certainly hasn’t made it open and readily available to everyone without some measure of control. That also means that Canon may also assist them in the development of the lens firmware. So it could very well end up meaning that what third-party lenses we get – won’t have the caveats that we used to get with third-party lenses with the EF mount.
All in all, all this confusion boils down to Canon being themselves and staying quiet, ignoring the masses, and doing their own thing. They could certainly head off a lot of angst by effectively communicating on this (unless it really is they are just mean greedy corporate overlords).
One of the reasons why the EF mount was the most successful in the history of cameras (in terms of cameras and lenses sold) was the rich third-party support it enjoyed and we all want to see the RF mount have the same success.
I hope that Canon is carefully considering ensuring that we have more third-party support and that the path to releasing and licensing is smooth and optimized for the third-party vendors, and also a means to which we can identify lenses that Canon has officially granted a license. I hope that we eventually learn more about the mount licensing model and see some excellent third-party lenses for the RF mount.
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